Using the Right Ingredients with Nestlé

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Symbols act as a visual shorthand to allow external audiences identify brands. But they are even more important to employees and others with more intimate connections to a brand because they convey and connote so much more meaning.

Symbols represent the reality employees experience in their day-to-day work. Effective symbols in the workplace to reflect the tenants they represent. Symbols comprise an essential element of the Culture Framework because they provide an instant reminder of their shared experiences and history together. Strong, effective symbolism incites a visceral reaction and instantly calls to mind powerful feelings, but also represents a depth of collective experience that calls for more nuanced interpretation and scrutiny.

It’s hard to conjure symbols out of nothing and impose them on an organization. Instead, leveraging the symbols that are inextricably interwoven with the multifaceted dimensions each brand and organization enables them to acquire even greater significance over time.

Symbolism Nourishes the Culture

Henri Nestlé was one of the very first Swiss manufacturers to build a brand, in the modern sense of the word, and he did so with the help of his rather groundbreaking logo.

The first logo Nestlé used was simply the family coat of arms. As meaningful as this heraldic crest was to the individual founding family, it didn’t resonate as a symbol of the organization or customers for many reasons. That symbol lacked dimension. It was an image that smacked of aristocracy and most importantly, the crest had nothing to do with the business or the products the company created.

Thus, it was quickly changed in 1868 to an early version of the logo Nestlé still uses today—three birds in a nest, being fed by their mother.

The obvious symbolism here is that Nestlé is Swiss for “nest,” but the genius of the iconic logo was that it reinforced their foray into nurturing infant cereal products. The Nestlé nest became iconic and synonymous with nourishment and, as the company grew, that sense of purpose expanded.

Today, Nestlé’s mantra is “Good Food, Good Life”, and that scope—however broad—still shines through in the logo. The true beauty of this symbol is that it came from a time when “branding” was not yet the exclusive purview of professional marketers. Instead, the logo came from a place of genuine and meaningful inspiration, and it represented an organizational mission, vision and values, all before those words became de rigeur for any self-respecting business.

Evolving the Culture Inline with Symbolism

One of the key ideologies within Nestlé is “Creating Shared Value.” This too stems from the Shared Purpose of nourishing the community and the future of the world.

As the company has grown, Nestlé has increasingly invested in the communities in which their employees live and work. They make massive contributions to Feeding America, over 150 million pounds of food donated over the course of the partnership, and also support related community programs including Adopt-a-School and GirlSports. Volunteer and Community care programs alike enable Nestlé employees to advance common goals and see the impact that they are making on the world.

But Nestlé’s use of symbolism is also thoughtful and measured. It extends the idea of nourishment, but it doesn’t stretch it as the company continues to evolve and extend into new products, lines of business and philanthropic outreach. The symbol that once represented the literal feeding of infants is now on the t-shirts of volunteers who are hard at work at food drives, and also on banners that wave over classrooms where students are gaining vital skills and knowledge.

Nestlé employees proudly wear their company’s symbol because they know firsthand what it represents and because the symbol is so rooted in company’s culture. When new audiences inquire about what the Nestlé symbol represents, the answer doesn’t come from convoluted business speak. It comes from the heart and from experience, further reinforcing the meaning and value of its symbolism.

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